Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages

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Overview

Although Jews constituted the largest minority in medieval Europe, they tend to be largely ignored in general studies of the Middle Ages, with the result that their history and culture are both overlooked and misunderstood. Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages attempts to correct that situation by presenting, in clear and accessible language, an introduction to Jewish thought as well as to medieval Jewish history and texts.

This volume examines the everyday life of medieval Jews in both Christian and Muslim environments, looks at the causes of medieval anti-Semititism and anti-Judaism, and includes a brief history of the persecutions to which medieval Jews were subjected. Despite popular opinion today, medieval Jewish life consisted of far more than persecution and suffering, and the volume examines Jewish accomplishments in the fields of biblical commentary, literature, philosophy, and mysticism, demonstrating that Jewish life, while often difficult, also had its creative and glorious side. Because the Talmud was the most important Jewish text throughout the Middle Ages, this volume introduces readers to the intricacies of that long and involved work, which helped to shape medieval Christianity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[A] well-researched yet highly accessible overview of medieval Jewry that takes neither a predominantly Western Christian approach to medieval history nor one limited to Hebrew-speaking audiences. Steinberg bridges the gap between works by medieval historians possessing a deep knowledge of the period but having almost no knowledge of the unique role and contributions of Jews during the era, and works by Jewish scholars presuming in the reader a prior knowledge of Jewish identity, history, culture, and language….Scholarly yet highly accessible, this book fills a significant gap in the literature of the field and is recommended for all academic and most public libraries."

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Library Journal

"Steinberg (English, SUNY Fredonia) argues that Jewish perspectives are crucial to understanding medieval life, literature, and culture….Accessible style and frequent reference to anthologies and seminal studies in English recommend the book for medievalists and generalists without Jewish studies training. Recommended."

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Choice

"Steinberg offers an accessible and lively history of the Jewish experience in the Middle Ages for both scholars and non-scholars while also providing insight into Christianity and Islam by comparing and contrasting the three major Abrahamic faiths of the medieval world. His extenisve citations encourage further exploration for readers interested in pursuing the subject."

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MultiCultural Review

Library Journal

Steinberg (English, SUNY at Fredonia; Reading the Middle Ages) presents a well-researched yet highly accessible overview of medieval Jewry that takes neither a predominantly Western Christian approach to medieval history nor one limited to Hebrew-speaking audiences. Steinberg bridges the gap between works by medieval historians possessing a deep knowledge of the period but having almost no knowledge of the unique role and contributions of Jews during the era, and works by Jewish scholars presuming in the reader a prior knowledge of Jewish identity, history, culture, and language. He clears up many misconceptions along the way, e.g., that "Jewish life in the Middle Ages was a succession of horrors," arguing that an overemphasis on Jewish suffering has left scholars with a distorted picture of Jewish history. He also highlights major contributions from Jewish philosophers and scholars of the period that culminated in the greatest achievement of the era, the rise of Rabbinic Judaism. Scholarly yet highly accessible, this book fills a significant gap in the literature of the field and is recommended for all academic and most public libraries.
—Brian Greene

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275985882
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/28/2007
  • Series: Praeger Series on the Middle Ages Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,263,815
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

THEODORE L. STEINBERG is Distinguished Professor of English at the State University of New York, Fredonia and the author of over thirty articles and four books, including Reading the Middle Ages (2003).

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Table of Contents

I Backgrounds 1

1 Jews and Judaism: What Are They? 3

2 Talmud and Midrash 21

3 Jews, Christians, Muslims 49

II The Historical Record 95

4 The Medieval Jewish Experience 97

5 Living as Jews in the Medieval World 135

III The Jewish Cultural Legacy 161

6 Commentaries 163

7 Medieval Hebrew Literature 185

8 Philosophy and Kabbalah 219

Epilogue 255

App. 1 Chronology 257

App. 2 Names in Hebrew and English 261

Notes 263

Bibliography 273

Index 285

A photo essay follows page 160

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